A SHOPPER's GUIDE
No one is truly carbon neutral -- even the most environmentally conscious among us has to exhale. But by funding reductions elsewhere, so-called "carbon offsets" promise to make up for the greenhouse gases we all generate. Here are a few ways you can shrink your carbon footprint (though whether that will reduce overall emissions is an open question):
Customers can now buy offsets for the carbon dioxide emissions released by air travel (the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases) when they buy their tickets on the travel websites Expedia and Travelocity. Travelocity's partner, the nonprofit Conservation Fund (conservationfund.org), puts the money toward preserving forests, which take carbon dioxide out of the air.
Many companies and nonprofits offer offsets for cars. Native Energy (nativeenergy.com), for example, which funds only Native American-owned renewable energy projects, allows customers to offset the emissions of a particular car trip, or simply pay to offset a car's estimated emissions over the course of a year of driving ($36 for a hybrid, $96 for an SUV).
Many sites also offer the option of offsetting an individual's entire "carbon footprint." For $99, Carbonfund.org offers a "zero carbon" option, an offset not only for a year's worth of fossil fuel combustion, but all of the emissions associated with the production of "everything we consume: clothes, food, electronics, your iPod, everything."
Offset rewards programs
Starting this spring, the company Bright Planet (brightpla.net) will offer a credit card that rewards carriers with offsets based on how much they spend. Apply for it before the next holiday season and shop your way to carbon neutrality.